An international operation involving Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the law enforcement authorities of 13 countries is targeting the users of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattack tools, leading to 34 arrests and 101 suspects interviewed and cautioned.
Those arrested are suspected of paying for stressers and booters services as part of DDoS-for-hire schemes, and using them to launch attacks against targets, in order to flood websites and web servers with data, leaving them inaccessible to users.
Many of the individuals arrested or cautioned are described as "young adults under the age of 20". During the week-long operation, different measures were taken depending on national legislation: suspects were interviewed, detained, arrested, or fined; notifications were sent to parents; and house searches were conducted.
Europol hopes that the latest arrests will send a message to any wannabe cyberattackers.
"Today's generation is closer to technology than ever before, with the potential of exacerbating the threat of cybercrime. Many IT enthusiasts get involved in seemingly low-level fringe cybercrime activities from a young age, unaware of the consequences that such crimes carry," says Steven Wilson, head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre.
"One of the key priorities of law enforcement should be to engage with these young people, to prevent them from pursuing a criminal path, helping them understand how they can use their skills for a more constructive purpose."
The operation took place from 5 December to 9 December 2016 and involved Europol working alongside law enforcement from Australia, Belgium, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Participating countries worked together within the framework set out by the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT), a project with the aim of protecting against cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure and information systems in the European Union.